Historic and Essential Debate

Joye Brown, Newsday

Last week's Suffolk County executive debate at Central Islip High School was billed as historic. And it was.

The debate between Angie Carpenter, the county treasurer, and Steve Bellone, theBabylon town supervisor, was the first in the heart of a mostly minority community between candidates seeking the county's top elected post.

"It's hard to believe it's never happened before," said Assemb. Philip Ramos(D-Brentwood), Long Island's sole Latino representative in the State Assembly, as he stood in the lobby with residents who would go on to fill almost two-thirds of the 1,000-seat capacity auditorium.

The debate was longer than the season's other debates. And it looked different, with Carpenter and Bellone sharing the stage with debate moderators and 13 questioners, most of them local residents.

The debate went well beyond the usual political discussion of Suffolk's tight budget and high property taxes to issues -- including gangs, immigrant farmworker visas and building local businesses -- that resonate among many minorities and immigrants, the fastest growing populations on Long Island.

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